|Leap of Faith|
Brittany Blackburn '01 graduated with a degree in Sports Medicine at Charleston Southern University in 2005, and earned her MBA at Kaplan University in 2008. After four years of working at Savannah Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle, Brittany felt called to leave her successful job and life in America to embark on missionary service in South Africa through Goshen International. She moved to Plettenberg Bay, South Africa (8,200 miles southeast of Savannah) this past summer. Her team is specifically engaged in administering a private school of about 200 students, Ebenezer Academy, and implementing a model curriculum – “a classical education with a biblical worldview” – to raise leaders to positively influence the country.
Her work includes fundraising, budgeting, acquiring and shipping books out of the US, teaching, and training teachers, and anything else that needs to be done.
During Brittany’s work through Goshen International this past summer and fall, she sent weekly letters to her supporters and friends describing her experiences. The following edited excerpts of her letters offer insight into her journey through her own eyes, and provide a glimpse of how alumni with moral strength, spiritual discernment and academic integrity can impact society through responsible, effective Christian living, and how a Raider can love and pursue truth, recognize beauty in all its forms, live virtuously, think and problem solve logically, read insightfully, write incisively, speak persuasively, be physically fit, and serve wholeheartedly.
Goshen International oversees the creation of learning centers throughout Africa to provide opportunities for students to personally experience and know Jesus Christ, increase in academic knowledge, receive at least one meal a day plus clothing and shoes, recieve instruction in Biblical worldview and leadership principles, get early abstinence and family education, and have opportunities to experience various enrichment programs. Their goal is to not just sustain impoverished children in their current living conditions, but also uplift them spiritually and academically to help transform the nation one community at a time.
Excerpts out of Brittany’s letters:
The World Cup game is tomorrow and the stadium is about five minutes away. Lots of streets are shut down all around. The national pride is so strong. Everyone has been so excited since Spain won. The whole country seemed to be cheering for them because the Dutch enslaved them in the past.
We meet with the mayor Friday so we can give him a template of our classical education curriculum because he wants to use it in other schools around the city.
We met with the teachers today to go over the new curriculum and their new assignments. They will have to do lesson plans now, which they have never done before. They are not happy about it and a few have the attitude that the school was fine before we showed up.
I will be teaching kindergarten (grade R) how to read English, which will be interesting since I have no teaching experience.
This is quite a transition out of the medical field; I can’t wait to see what amazing work God has in store and why he sent me here.
They are having record breaking lows . . . Today it was 10 degrees C (50 F).
The first day of school went well. The kids are great . . . One of the teachers asked why we implemented history. Nicole explained how in the classical education all of the classes were linked together by time period and it was like light bulb came on and she lit up like she understood.
There are two groups here: blacks and colored. The coloreds have Dutch in their ancestry so they are light skinned and are a class above the blacks. Before apartheid, the colored women had two options: nursing or teaching. So, we have teachers who were forced to pick a career that they did not have a passion for and are very unmotivated to excel in.
We drove straight to the learning center, which meant we went through these wooden shacks that the blacks call houses. The coloreds at least get concrete shacks. The division here between whites, coloreds, and blacks is still very evident. The apartheid was not that long ago and the class system still prevails.
For the first time in my life I wake up every morning and have a devotion, and I’m so excited because I can feel that I am EXACTLY where God wants me to be. I’m not on the side road waiting for access to the main path, but I finally made it, and the more the devil throws at us, the more I am assured that I am in God’s will and great things are yet to come.
I finally had my first meal of ostrich . . . It was delicious!
The kids can’t understand why we would leave America and move here, which creates a perfect opportunity to talk about God. They also lit up when I said all my friends and family in America were praying for them.
Every day we can feel the presence of God and have no fear about where we go or what we do because we have not finished His plan.
Even though we live and work in a big civilized city, this isn’t America and it’s easy to feel disconnected while living in another culture.
I still can’t believe I’m here. Three weeks ago I was in Key Largo, now I’m watching baboons play beside the road in Africa.
I am amazed at the kid’s manners. They all say, “Ma’am” and “Sir” and greet us with a handshake.
We had a teacher quit on Monday. Tuesday, a woman came in who wanted to work for the school at the beginning of the year, but there were no positions available. What an answer to prayer! God’s timing amazes us every day.
In South Africa, all schools have tuition, even public.
South Africa is easily one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
I brought the iPad for the road trip and (the kids) had a blast playing all the games. I would like to think it was my stellar personality they wanted to be around, but I think it was the iPad.
A second grader was stealing his classmate’s chips this week. He was taught to steal when he was hungry. We made him bring us 1 rand for 5 days (roughly 70 cents) - the cost of a bag of chips - and buy a bag for his classmate. We bought chips for the rest of the class and he distributed them, apologized, and announced that he was a giver not a taker. Asemahle was so happy and could not stop smiling while giving out the chips and has not taken anything since. It was the highlight of the week.
It is refreshing to have young teenagers ask such poignant questions like, “How do you hear God?” and “How do you know you are really in His plan?” I shared how I felt God calling me to come here, and I got a million questions in return about how exactly it felt and when I knew. It was great! These kids are so eager to gain knowledge of how to have a closer relationship with God.
We received a large donation for our books! We had started purchasing the books with my personal savings . . . It was like God was telling us just step out in faith and I will give you your overflow. What an answer to prayer!
The kids have trouble reading American names in the readers, such as “Carl”, “Mark”, “Jim” and “Jill”, because it is unfamiliar, but they have no problem with “Buhlebenkosi” or “Thandolwethu” or “Asadumaodwa”.
These kids were taught to read whole language (learning to read by associating certain words with pictures), whereas I was taught to read with phonics - sounding it out (thank you Savannah Christian).
Kids have told me I sound different than most Americans. A teacher explained that I speak very proper English with great diction (once again, thank you Savannah Christian). Parents are excited that I am teaching the kids to read because they will sound more proper and drop the thick Xhosa accent as they sound words out to mimic me.
One thing I love about God is how after we work hard, He finds a way for us to play hard. I had the opportunity to go diving with sharks this week in Plett. We also went to Seal Island and sat on the bottom while seals swam all around us. I am so blessed that God chose to send me to such a beautiful place.
Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how much I love South Africa. This week started in Cape Town. We were able to go to the aquarium, climb Table Mountain and hike to the southernmost tip of Africa - Cape Point.
I have traveled all over the world and am still stunned the way so many countries view America and put us on this pedestal. I am humbled to be blessed enough to be American.
I was the World History teacher today. I have also been planning our after school program; we have ten months and pretty much no budget, so it has been a little challenging. I was also asked to help coach the track team. Next week I will be an English teacher. And who knows what else will come up. We kind of live day by day without really planning too far ahead. This has given me a chance to really see God work and pull things together.
This week it rained for two days. This doesn’t seem like much, but South Africa has been in a drought for 3 years, so this was a miracle. The dams and rivers are filling up . . . an answer to prayer.
Kids kept calling me Nicole or Christa. I finally asked why they cannot tell us apart because the three of us look nothing alike. They said our names all sound alike. I guess I can give them that one, since I think Luniko, Lindokuhle and Luthando sound alike.
Another amazing week in the southern hemisphere. A church friend called. He was in the hospital and the patient in the next room was an Indonesian fisherman who spoke no English. Well, there’s an app for that. I went down and let the nurses use my translator on my iPad to tell the guy what they needed to do to him and his results.
There was one moment when I stopped and thought, “Am I really in South Africa in charge of a school, driving around on the wrong side of the road, and cooking dinner for the house?”
Signs I’m acclimated: (1) When I run, I measure it in kilometers. (2) 22 degrees is the perfect temperature. (3) 50 bucks is a cheap dinner.
We no longer go with the “Every child is a winner plan”. They used to give awards to every student, but we explained that if every student gets an award, then no student gets an award. This made the kids in the top in the class proud, and gave the others a desire to work harder.
I get to go on a safari at Addo Elephant Park. I will finally get to see some of the ‘big five’ - elephant, lion, black rhino, buffalo, and leopard. Maybe I will start to feel like I’m finally in Africa.
At the big auction at the learning center, Christa and I assisted as Vanna White and Vanna Black.
I survived the bungy jump at the tallest bungy in the world in Tsitsikama at Bloukrans Bridge. It was 216 meters (709 feet), which is over two football fields. Their motto is “Fear is temporary, regret is forever.” No worries though because it was amazing! 2 Corinthians 5:13, “If I acted crazy, I did it for God.”
I already love the kids so much and the work I’ve been doing in South Africa. I know 100% that this was a God thing and I could not have done this without the support of my friends and family.
Brittany returned to Africa in January with a three-year visa. For more information, visit www.goshenintl.org.